Officials To Discuss Future Of Samoa University Of Medicine

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National university may absorb overseas-funded medical school

By Niccola Marie Hazelman

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 18, 2012) – The future of the Oceania University of Medicine (OUM) will be the main topic of discussion between Samoa’s government and Taffy Gould when she arrives next month.

OUM is currently funded by American Miss Gould, whose IT company delivers part of the curriculum, while the government of Samoa has provided the land and buildings for the university, pays the electricity and provides a number of scholarships each year.

"I have written to Taffy Gould to come and she has responded that she can come anytime, so she will be here next month."

"This is the current practice, there are partnership arrangements, right now we have yet to complete our internal discussions about OUM whether

OUM should continue to function independently or be under The National University of Samoa but have their own campus where it is."

"We are going to look into the various complex relationships," said the Prime Minister.

The original agreement between the government and Ms. Gould was that discussions on OUM’s future would take place after a period of ten years; that timeframe has now passed.

One of the options being considered by government is to have OUM become part of the National University of Samoa (NUS) and to this end, initial talks have already taken place.

A recent trip to New Zealand by members of the committee tasked to explore options for the medical school’s future, included a visit to the University of Otago which is the oldest and longest established medical school in Australasia.

NUS has a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Otago which allows for Samoan students to be awarded NZ scholarships to go to the Otago Medical School.

Scholarships are also available from both the New Zealand and Australian governments for Samoan students to attend the Fiji School of Medicine.

However to date, neither the New Zealand nor the Australian governments has offered scholarships for students to remain in Samoa and attend OUM. Both country representatives have said they may, in the future.

Other traditional world health donors have also not been forthcoming with scholarship support.

The problem stems from what a source explained as a "lack of infrastructure" when the University was set up and subsequent actions taken by Miss Gould after the university was first accredited.

This lack of infrastructure, the mass sackings of the former Vice Chancellor and staff and false claims from OUM Dean, Papali’i Dr Benjamin about his authority and standing at the Auckland Medical School, appear to have damaged the institution’s credibility in the eyes of potential scholarship donors.

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